The Mora National Fish Hatchery began rearing Gila trout in 1999 and continues to do so to the present day. The hatchery is the only facility that currently cultures this rare fish. Current populations in active culture are lineages from the Main Diamond and South Diamond watersheds. Beginning in 2012, the hatchery began the process of developing broodstocks of the Whiskey and Spruce Creek lineages. These surviving populations can be severely impacted by natural events such as fire, flood, and drought, and the Mora NFH has the capability to provide refugia when necessary.
Endangered Species Recovery
In 2006 after much work, the Gila trout was down-listed from a status of endangered to one of threatened. Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act allows the USFWS to issue regulations to conserve species listed as threatened. Under the section, the USFWS and its’ partners have allowed limited fishing in New Mexico and Arizona. These “harvest” populations are supplemented by fish from Mora NFH that are excess to the needs of the recovery program.
Each year the hatchery improves the spawning techniques for the Gila trout creating higher hatch rates. Continual modifications to culture techniques and protocols result in increased egg production and corresponding fry hatch rates, which in turn results in more fish available for recovery and recreational stocking.
The majority of stocking takes place inside the Gila Wilderness Area which is part of the Gila National Forest in southern New Mexico. The fish are hauled in on mules, backpack, and/or helicopters to reach their destination. This effort takes massive amounts of coordination among the recovery partner agencies, including the National Forest Service, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Service. The New Mexico Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office takes the lead on this coordination and works closely with the Mora NFH on the stocking and broodstock collection efforts.
The Gila trout became eligible for angling opportunities in New Mexico in 2008, and the return of Gila trout angling opportunities in Arizona began in 2011. Excess fish from recovery efforts are stocked out into recreation streams for angling opportunities.